In our tour of Texas music the other day, I missed some tunes that we could have included because I forgot about a variant spelling. In the days before, as I pondered the post and the city of San Antonio, I did check on the digital shelves for tunes that called the city “San Antone.” But as I wrote Tuesday, that spelling slipped my mind.
As it slipped, we lost our chances at hearing Emmylou Harris’ “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” from her 1977 album Luxury Liner, and we missed out on two versions of “Home In San Antone,” the first a vocal take by Redd Volkaert from 1998 and the second an instrumental version by the Quebe Sisters Band from 2003.
And we missed out, of course, on one of the classic country songs, “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone.” The song was written by Glenn Martin and David Kirby, and its most famous iteration is its first, the version recorded in February 1970 by Charlie Pride:
Pride’s version was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard country chart and made it to No. 70 on the magazine’s Hot 100. (It was one of twenty-nine No. 1 hits for Pride on the country chart between 1969 and 1983.) And covers abound: Second Hand Songs lists twenty-eight of them, from Bake Turner’s version recorded in March 1970 to a version by Buddy Jewell that came out in June of this year (and there are likely others not listed there).
Two of those covers – along with Pride’s original – are on the digital shelves here: There’s a pretty basic country version by Nat Stuckey from his 1971 album Only A Woman Like You, and then there’s a 1973 take on the tune by Doug Sahm with some vocal help – according to both my ears and Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles – from Bob Dylan:
The track was released as a single on Atlantic and bubbled under the Hot 100 for three weeks, peaking at No. 115. It was also released on a 1973 album titled Doug Sahm and Band.
As we drove down the Interstate Saturday en route to meet friend and regular commenter Yah Shure for lunch, the radio offered us ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” I wondered out loud whether I should have included the record or the group’s “Legs” in this blog’s long-completed Ultimate Juke Box or the following series of posts called Juke Box Regrets.
Having decided that including ZZ Top’s “La Grange” in the long project was likely enough Texas boogie, I told the Texas Gal that one of my goals in life is still to drive through the streets of La Grange, Texas, with my car audio blaring out “China Grove.”
“Or the other way around?” she asked with a chuckle. That would do, too, I told her. And then she asked “But what about Luckenbach?” I said I wasn’t sure what to do about any visit to that city, and we began listing song titles that include the names of cities in Texas. It didn’t take us long to come up with a good list, and I’ve continued the work this week. So here’s a six-stop musical tour of the Lone Star State.
We’ll cross into the state from the Oklahoma panhandle, probably because someone told us to get of out Dodge City, just a ways north and east in Kansas. So the first major city we come to, smack-dab in the middle of Texas’ own panhandle is Amarillo. And it’s “Amarillo” by Emmylou Harris that starts off our musical tour. She’s lost her fellow, but not to another woman: “Oh I lost him to a jukebox and a pinball machine,” she sings.
The song, written by Harris and Rodney Crowell, was the opening track to Harris’ 1975 album, Elite Hotel. The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 25 on the Billboard 200. And we’re on our way south, noting that we could have listened to a couple of other tunes instead: “Midnight In Old Amarillo” by Cindy Cashdollar (2004) or “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait (1982).
But we head south to Lubbock and then make our way southeast to Abilene, which George Hamilton IV said, in his 1963 cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 song, was “the prettiest town I’ve ever seen.” Hamilton’s “Abilene” was a pretty major record, sitting on top of the country chart for four weeks and reaching No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 15 on the Hot 100.
The record was one of thirty-one that Hamilton got into the country Top 40 between 1960 and 1973. I have to admit that his work is mostly unfamiliar to me, and I may correct that. While in Abilene, we could also have listened to Bobby Bare’s 1963 cover of the same song, Dave Alvin’s similarly titled but entirely different song from 1998 or Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Way Out In Abilene,” which showed up for me on a 1973 album titled Legacy of the Blues, Vol. 12.
We head east along Interstate 20, now getting into parts of Texas I’ve seen, even if I don’t know them well. Eventually, we make it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and the first tune we come across is the 1984 single “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” by George Strait. His gal has gone to Dallas, not far away in miles, but far enough in culture. My take on the two cities – and the Texas Gal generally agrees – is that Dallas is a city that mixes Eastern and Southern cultures in a kind of uneasy truce, while Fort Worth, just thirty or so miles away, is a Western city, and the gap between the two is greater than the distance.
Strait’s record went to No. 1 on the country chart, one of an incomprehensible number of country hits in his column. (My copy of the Billboard Book of Top Country Hits goes through 2005, and Strait’s total at the time the book came out was eighty; All Music lists at least twenty country hits for Strait since then.) As we leave Fort Worth, we’ll skip Dallas and head south, but as we do, we can listen to Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Fort Worth” from 1968 and what seems to be an obscure single by Steely Dan from 1972 titled “Dallas.”
About ninety miles out of Fort Worth, we reach Waco and the Brazos River, where Billy Walker’s bandito was urging himself on in 1964’s “Cross The Brazos At Waco.”
The record went to No. 2 on the country chart and bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 128. “Cross The Brazos . . .” was one of thirty-eight records Walker put into the country Top 40 between 1954 and 1976. As we cross the Brazos and prepare to leave Waco, we can listen to Ronnie Dunn’s “How Far To Waco” from his 2011 solo album.
The road bends slightly to the southwest, and 180 miles later, we find ourselves in San Antonio. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys released two versions of one of his most famous songs: “San Antonio Rose” in 1938 had a traditional string band arrangement, while “New San Antonio Rose” in 1940 added horns and some odd vocal embellishments, but the two were essentially the same song.
As we head through San Antonio, we choose the instrumental “San Antonio Rose” by pianist Floyd Cramer. The 1961 single was the most successful of the records we’re listening to today: It went to No. 8 on both the country and pop charts and to No. 3 on the adult contemporary chart. There are no doubt other tunes about San Antonio, but they’re not on the digital shelves here, and as we drive southwest out of town, we listen to versions of Wills’ tune by Patsy Cline and Leon Russell.
Our last stop today is another 150 or so miles to the south: Laredo, right on the Rio Grande, celebrated in one of the great traditional American songs. The version of “Streets of Laredo” that we hear today is by Willie Nelson, found on his 1968 album Texas In My Soul. Oddly enough, no version of the song has hit the country Top 40, but a version by Johnny Cash bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 124 in 1965. (The tale of “Streets of Laredo,” as gathered at Wikipedia, is quite interesting.)
And if we’re in a mood for some different Laredo music as we reach the Rio Grande, there’s always the “Nuevo Laredo Polka” by Gilberto López, a 1950 track. And casting regretful thoughts toward records about El Paso, Houston, Brownsville, Galveston and more, we come to a stopping place.
I’ve never been to a baby shower. They’ve always been the domain of women. But that changes today.
In a little while, the Texas Gal, my mother and I will head to the Twin Cities’ suburb of Plymouth for a baby shower for my niece and her husband, who are expecting their first child this summer. The baby will be the first grandchild for my sister and her husband and my mom’s first great-grandchild.
And the organizers of the shower – long-time friends of my sister’s – made the shower inclusive, so the menfolk were invited as well. There will be a brunch, gifts and all the other stuff that makes for a joyous gathering. It should be fun.
To mark the occasion here, I went looking for a song with “baby” in the title, and found more than a thousand of them on the digital shelves. So it took a little bit of searching, but I eventually found “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” a track from 2000 – from the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou – by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Back when I was a little horn-playing sprout, listening to my Herb Alpert and Al Hirt records on our RCA stereo, I found myself wanting to dance every time the needle got to the last track on Hirt’s 1963 album, Honey In The Horn. With its rapid tempo, its lip-rippling horn riffs, and its background singers chants of “Go along, go along,” I loved Hirt’s cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.”
Of course, at the age of twelve or so, I had no idea it was a cover. I had no idea who Hank Snow was. And I had no idea that Snow’s 1950 original had topped the country chart for a record-tying twenty-one weeks, matching the performance of Eddy Arnold’s 1947 release, “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms).” (In 1955, Webb Pierce tied Arnold and Snow when his “In The Jailhouse Now” was No. 1 for twenty-one weeks, and in 2013, notes Wikipedia, the three records were dropped from their record-holding positions when “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line spent twenty-four weeks at No. 1.*)
I’m not sure when I learned about Snow’s original – sometime between 1965 and 2000, I guess – but it’s without a doubt one of the classics of country music:
The record came to mind the other day when I heard a version of “I’m Movin’ On” by Johnny Cash with Waylon Jennings that was recently released on Out Among the Stars, a collection of recently discovered Cash recordings from 1981 and 1984. And I wondered what other covers might be out there, expecting the list to be lengthy.
And I was right: Second Hand Songs lists more than fifty covers of the Snow song, and there are others at Amazon (though many of those listings are the Rascal Flatts song with the same title). And Wikipedia references a few other covers. I don’t entirely trust that list, however, as it cites covers by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, and I can find no indication that either Dylan or Zep recorded the song. (Dylan’s official website does note that he performed the song in concert nineteen times between 1989 and 1993.)
Some of the covers have hit the various charts. On the country chart, Don Gibson took the song to No. 14 in 1960, and a live version by Emmylou Harris went to No. 5 in 1983. (The Harris version linked here is from an anthology, and I believe it’s the single version from the live Last Date album, though I imagine the single might have had the introduction trimmed. If it’s the wrong performance, I’d appreciate knowing about it.)
Three versions of the tune have also hit the pop chart: A jaunty cover by Ray Charles went to No. 40 (and to No. 11 on the R&B chart) in 1959, singer Matt Lucas took the song to No. 59 in 1963 in his only appearance on the chart, and John Kay saw his Steppenwolf-ish cover of the tune go to No. 52 in 1972.
And that’s enough for today. We’ll be back later this week with some more.
*Based on what I read at Wikipedia, I have some reservations about “Cruise” holding the record for most weeks at No. 1, as some of those twenty-four weeks belong to the original release and some of them belong to a remix by hip-hop artist Nelly. If there’s a remix, is it the same record?
Thoughts on writing implements – as promised in Thursday’s post – will have to wait, because two tales from some years ago are intertwining, and there’s more there to untangle than we generally do here on a Saturday morning. And in making Thursday’s promise, I did not account for the fact that the Texas Gal and I have signed up for a few hours of booth duty today representing our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at today’s Pride in the Park, part of the local LGBT organization’s annual Pridefest.
So, due to the vagaries of my forearm tendons and my lack of planning, this blog has become a little bit of a sparsely seeded place this week. With luck, next week will find me more productive.
In keeping with the disjointedness of the week, here’s a track that has nothing to do with any of this except for the song’s title. It’s the classic country song, “Making Plans,” written by Voni Morrison and Johnny Russell. The version recorded by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner went to No. 2 on the country chart in 1980, and seven years later, Parton recorded it with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris as part of their Trio album.